On a rainy night in Charlotte, Clemson relied on its dynamic ground game despite a field that wasn’t in the best of shape, and a defensive scheme that the Tigers haven’t always successfully run the ball against. On this night however, Travis Etienne took the game’s first offensive snap 75 yards to paydirt, and the Tigers never looked back in a 42-10 win over Pitt. It is the program’s fourth consecutive ACC Championship, a feat that had not been accomplished since the league expanded and split into divisions in 2005.
It wasn’t always pretty, but that should have been expected considering the conditions. Led by Etienne, the Tigers finished with with 301 yards on the ground and the defense kept the Pitt rushing attack in check, while only allowing QB Kenny Pickett to complete four passes. It was evident fairly early that this was going to be the blowout all the pundits had predicted.
It’s only fitting we start here. The argument can be made that he is the best running back in country. Week in and week out he shows why, and shows it with minimal touches as there are two other backs on the team deserving of carries too. There is only one ball and so many touches to go around, but Etienne makes the most of those touches as evidenced by his 12 carry 156 yard performance. The yards he picks up after contact are astounding. He will be on most every preseason Heisman watch list next year. He put Pitt on notice instantly that on this night, there would be no upset..... Paws Up
After having its worst game of the year in the 56-35 win over SC, this group had a nice bounce-back performance last night. After allowing 510 yards passing last week, they held Pitt QB Kenny Pickett to only 13 yards. Yes, Pitt is a run heavy team and Pickett is no more than a game manager, but allowing only 13 passing yards is still impressive, any way you look at it. Pitt ran for 192 yards but averaged only 4 yards per carry, less than their season average coming in, and after halftime they really locked down. They only had two sacks but were able to get consistent pressure all night and finished 9 TFL..... Paws Up
This team is going to miss this guy. He was as disruptive as ever in this one, even picking off a fumble mid air and returning it to the 2. It was disappointing that he was not able to get that one into the end zone, if for no other reason than to see if he dared try that Heisman pose again. Yes, he is going to be sorely missed..... Paws Up
The backup QB only came in late in the 4th quarter in mop up duty but he deserves a mention if for no other reason than that perfectly execute zone read where he faked almost everyone in the stadium out on his 28 yard run that set up the Tigers final TD. This kid grew up in the Syracuse game and without his heroics that day, the Tigers might very well be on the outside of the playoffs looking in..... Paws Up
After a tough night vs South Carolina last week, Simmons rebounded in a big way and played well in this one. He missed a tackle on the long Pitt run that lead to their only TD, but that was the lone blemish on the night. He was all over the field and played as physical as I can remember him being this season, finishing with 7 tackles, with 2.5 of those being TFL..... Paws Up
What else is there to really say? The punting is ugly. There is no other way around it and I don’t know why Carson King hasn’t gotten more of a shot. Yes, Will Spiers got off one booming 63 yarder, but still managed to only average 36 yards per punt. That just isn’t getting done..... Paws Down
There is absolutely no reason for it to take that long getting into a stadium. There has got to be a more efficient way to handle the traffic at metal detectors, especially considering the stadium wasn’t close to being full (Editors note: additionally, taking people’s granola bars and other snacks at the gate to force guests to buy more concessions is a low move. Not letting folks move about in the lower deck to see the trophy presentation where there is clearly room, again, petty.) ..... Paws Down
And elsewhere on Conference Championship Weekend.....
Sorry, that was loss number two. You are out. As you should be. You had your chance, as you once again had Alabama on the ropes, and for a second straight year could not finish the job. Ironically, it was Alabama’s backup QB who beat you again..... Paws Down
That was impressive. What a comeback to cap off a second straight unbeaten season. However, as a G5 team, no playoff spot for you. No matter what one’s opinion is on the subject, the committee has shown us this year that they have no intention on letting a non-P5 team in. Maybe the G5 conferences should just create their own team and crown their own champ. Still though, two consecutive unbeaten seasons is impressive..... Paws Up
You are playing a meaningless makeup game against Akron in a stadium that was mostly empty. The last home game of the season and the last home game for Michael Scharneccia and you can’t even get him one snap in a 21 point win over a MAC team? Come on Boom, you have to do better than that..... Paws Down
That is all I have this week. Up next for the Tigers is the CFP and Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers are once again a double digit favorite, continuing a trend we have seen in every game this season.
As always, give us your Paws Up and Paws Down takes in the comments, and keep checking back with STS for more from Pitt and a look ahead to the CFP.